SLIDER

Being a Digital Nomad in Ho Chi Minh City

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

I wasn’t really sure what to call this post because even though it is true on some days, I don’t really call myself a digital nomad. That being said, I do take on remote freelance work sometimes and if I do it when I’m travelling, then I guess I am, for all intensive purpose, a digital nomad.

Whilst I was happy to be 'unemployed' and traveling full time when I was in Asia, having the option to take a few hours out from my day to sit down and top up my travel money is something I will always be greatful that I can do. Not only is the money a plus; but working online also keeps my mind active and was great for filling any boring gaps I had.

Heres what day as a backpacking digital nomad typically looked like for me.
Ho Chi Minh City ended up being the last stop on my Asian adventure whilst I waited around for my visa to come through so I was there for three weeks in total, by the end of it I knew the city like the back of my hand, I knew exactly where I was going most of the time; no need for sat navs. It’s not somewhere that people stay for too long because it's pretty intense but I really did love the city - it’s hot and sticky, loud, bustling and there are motorbikes absolutely everywhere but that’s what I’m all about, I’d pick a big foreign city over the beach any day.

Well and truly embracking backpacker life and not knowing how long I'd have to wait for my visa, I booked myself into the cheapest room that I could find; a 16 bed dorm at a party hostel called The Hangout; and I really enjoyed my time there. It cost £4 per night which included breakfast and two mixed drinks - talk about value for money. Plus the bigger, the better - more beds means more opportunities to make friends (and to find someone who was travelling with a pair of straighteners.) 

Waking up at around 8am I'd usually be the first one out of bed. Saigon is magical in the morning, for such a ridiculously loud and fast paced city, the early morning was when I found it most authentic, I  loved wandering through the streets as the stall holders set up their markets.
The life of Vietnam is hidden in the alleyways and it's where I spent most of my time. One morning when I first arrived, I went for a wander and found a little gem that I went back to every single day until I left. What looked like just another dingy smoothie place, where the blenders were held together with elastic bands turned out to be Saigon’s best kept secret. 

I couldn’t start my day without a visit and I’d spend a half hour just sat there drinking my smoothie and watching life go by around me. I switched between two flavours, Milo (chocolate) and banana or an mango and passionfruit, both equally delicious and 25k (70p) each. More often than not I'd get through three smoothies a day.
After that it starts to get really hot and sticky and a bit crazy out on the streets so with an hour that needed filling and in search of some more morning calm, I headed to the gym. I found a great one at The Luna Hotel overlooking the backpacker street which cost me a grand total of 70K (3.70) pay as you go. It was also where I showered because towels were free there and they weren't at the hostel. lol backpacker life.

Whilst breakfast was the most delicious meal of the day, lunch was my best bargain of the day. I always try to eat where there are locals so having sat down surrounded by Vietnamese people and ordered some chicken which cost 25k (70p again) I was amazed when I was brought not only the chicken that I had ordered, but a side of rice, some green veg, a bowl of soup and an iced tea all included in the price.
After lunch, I had no more excuses left to avoid doing some work so that’s when I finally sat down to do some. Usually I’d head to the hostel to do it because everyone was still asleep and it was the quietest place. It also had air con, toilets and plugs so it was just an easy, free option.

By 3 or 4pm, people started to emerge and it’d be time to finish up work and just enjoy being a backpacker. Some days I went off to explore with friends; manicures, sky bars, markets. Others, someone would sit down in front of me with a pack of cards and we’d just mess around for a few hours.
Whatever adventure we decided to go on usually ended up with us agreeing that we needed to go back to the hostel for a nap. People would be coming and going at different hours all throught the night but you could be sure that if you wanted to get some proper rest, the best time to do it would be early evening becasue everyone would be returning from day trips and preparing for an evening of partying.
The evenings began at 8pm when the free drinks started and finished at all sorts of different times depending on the night and the crowd. Some nights we'd just stay at the hostel bar and others we'd head out to the club's. Or sometimes I just went to the gym. Either way though, I was always excited to head home because it meant I had to walk through Bui Vien Street (backpacker street) which was where all the street food was at. More often than not I'd sit down at a tiny table and order myself a midnight feast. I had street food for every single meal after Jonny left because we didn't eat any while he was there; he was just too big for the seats.
After that it was time to head back to the room so see what awaited me there. Sometimes that would be the end of my night and I'd be able to get into bed and go to sleep. Sometimes I'd get back to find the whole room having a deep meaningful chat over a pizza at 2am.

On Moving to Australia

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Before heading to our new home in the Gold Coast, Jonny and I spent a couple days in Sydney with his brother, dad and two of his uncles. Exploring the city was loads of fun and averaging 18,000 steps per day meant I didn’t feel so guilty about all the junk we ate. Boys; we flew to another country and all they wanted was KFC. Having heard about Australia’s brunch culture however, I was on the hunt from the minute we arrived, and did manage to find an incredible smoothie bowl one afternoon when I went for a wander whilst they were at the pub. 
Our stay in Sydney was short but sweet and soon enough it was time to catch our flight to the Gold Coast. Jonnys best friends, Leon & Seamus (they're twins) have just bought an apartment at a holiday resort and we've moved in with them. Fully furnished (double bed, dining table - it even came with champange chutes so I have some to drink my prosecco out of), en suite, swimming pool and the beach down the road; it's perfect!

They're the first people my age I know that have managed to save up and buy a house for themselves and I think its pretty amazing; such an investment for their future. They even showed us this handy calculator from SunLife that shows how much house prices have risen in recent years, something they're excited about. 

Still, all their talk of mortgages goes right over my head, along with how to use the washing machine so even though I've been thinking about it, I still think I've got a little way to go.

I love waking up to, what I only know as holiday weather every morning and that there is always music playing when they're home. I love eating breakfast on the balcony overlooking the pool. I love that we finally have a real kitchen since we lived without one in Auckland and I love that one of the bathrooms has a huge corner bathtub.

We're within walking distance of a Ben and Jerry’s, Baskin Robin’s, Movenpick, Gelatissimo, Mcdonalds and my new favourite - Royal Copenhagen so thats where most of our money goes nowadays. Seriously, our cash got stolen over the first few days here and we decided to spend the last of it on ice cream. 

Having trialled all of the gyms in the area, I was going more or less 7 days a week for almost a month. I signed up for my first ever membership and promotly stopped going altogether as my Uber Eats application got accepted the next day. I now spend all my spare time cycling.
Talking of which, Jonny bought me the most beautiful mint green bicycle for my birthday! He also took me out for breakfast, ice cream and to a carabaret show where we both got very drunk and then had to cycle along the gold coast highway home.
We had our 6 month anniversary which we celebrated at the arcade. I might have lost at Guitar Hero but I did hit a 1000 ticket jackpot so who won really Bae?  

All three of the boys work the supermarket night shift and one of my two jobs is usually a10pm start so we spend most of our spare time messing around when we all get home at 4am. On top of that, theres uber which we all do very competatively; I worked 68 hours last week. So as you can see, it’s been all go since we got here sixe weeks ago. Sure it's been hard work but I'm loving it so far and am very excited to see what the rest of our time here brings! 


*Collaborative post

Being an Uber eats bicycle delivery driver

Sunday, 9 September 2018

When I landed, alone in Kuala Lumpur with no idea what I was doing, an Uber driver got me safely to my hostel. When I wanted to see the sky tower in Ho Chi Minh City but didn't have much time an Uber motorbike zipped us through the traffic and when I was hungry on a cold, stormy night in Auckland, an Uber eats driver delivered steamy udon soup through a window, straight to my bed. I never used Uber much when I was at home but since I've been travelling, it's become one of my most important apps.
Whilst my little mint green bike (big up K-Mart) and I aren't quite like the large item courier you see rolling around Vietnam, (honestly, I've seen fridges, TV's and whole families on the back of a bike there,) I've spent the last two weeks delivering brown paper bags of happieness to people all around the Gold Coast. Becoming an Uber delivery driver has completely taken over my life. I cycled for hours in the rain by choice on Tuesday and last night, the four of us turned off the app and cycled home at 4.30am. Me, Jonny and both of our housemates are totally obsessed. 
Making $$ and getting healthy whilst you do it. Here's how I've found the whole thing:

Signing Up
Signing up is a pretty simple process. There are the usual questions; plus they want copies of important documents and such. The only issue I had was how long it took. For me, it took almost 2 weeks just to get approved because the criminal check just took forever; although uber were really good with keeping me updated on progress via text and email. Also, the help centers here in Oz were some of the most efficient and helpful call center staff I've ever come across, they actually fixed my problem every time I called.

The Bag 
If you see someone with this huge bag of their back, you know they are a fellow Uber driver. Theygs cost $35 which automatically comes out of your first payout and Uber are also happy to swap them for free when they get tired. We take ours everywhere with us now and switch the app on an any opportunity; obsessed like I said.

The bag has been mostly good except for when it comes to pizzas; they just don't fit. On a busy Wednesday night, as I opened my bag to get a pizza out, it became apparent that the whole thing had slid out of the side of the box and was sitting on the bottom of my bag, prawns and all.

Using the app 
Probably now my most used app and really simple to use. You can start and stop whenever you like. Just go online and wait for the magical notification noise, it's addictive. When you get a delivery, your phone buzzes and gives you a few seconds to accept; too slow and it goes to someone else. The app then give you an order number and directs you to the resturant. Swipe 'start delivery' and the map routes you straight to the customer. Once the delivery is over, it tells you how much you made on it and adds it to the days total at the top of the screen.

Getting Paid 
Any money you've earn't from the last week goes straight into your account on Monday night and thats that. Simple.

Cancelled Orders
A cancelled order sounds like it could potentially be a bad thing, but trust me it's not. In 6 days of Ubering, I had 2 cancelled deliveries meaning I've finished up with over $60 worth of food to do what I want with and gotten paid for deliveries that I didn't have to make.

I picked up a Mcdonalds order and by the time I got back to my bike, Uber had already called me to let me know that my order was cancelled. They told me I'd still get paid for the delivery and to dispose of the food however I wanted.  Did I eat it? I wanted to but honestly I was so busy that day that I didn't have time. As soon as I hung up another order came through. 
Having not ridden a bike for years, on my first day out, I spent almost 5 hours cycling and since then, it's all I want to do. I don't have time to go food shopping, Jonny and I take our bags out on date nights and my gym membership has gone straight down the drain.

Yes, it can be pretty exhausting but what other job allows your to add an extra $400 to your income by spending a few hours cycling along the beach. Throw in a bag of snacks, a portable charger (very important) and an awesome Spotify playlist and I'm can go for hours.

Thank you Uber, you've changed my life.

a Relaxed New Zealand North Island Road trip

Monday, 20 August 2018

Like most people, Jonny hadn't really seen much of his own country and having spent 5 months there myself, I was a terrible traveller and had seen even less. With plans set to leave for Oz, we thought we should probably have a look around New Zealand before we left and decided to turn the standard one hour flight from Auckland to Wellington into a little bit of an adventure instead. 

New Zealand is world renowned for its incredible landscapes and adventurous hikes but not only did I not have any warm clothes or hiking gear with me, I am also not one for exerting too much energy, especially whilst I am on holiday. So, with just under a week to spare before we set off for Sydney, we took a leisurely drive down the North island. 

Auckland 

We actually left on a Friday night after work but having seen an incredible waterfall the week before, I thought it was definitely worth mentioning. Half an hours drive from where we lived or 50 minutes from the city, KareKare falls was a perfect little light afternoon adventure. Park up the car and take a 3 minute, signposted walk through the forest. We arrived in the late afternoon to a totally empty waterfall. It was incredible. 

Hamilton

We arrived in Hamilton in the late evening and left first thing in the morning but it wasn't a problem because there isn't all that much to do there. We would have skipped the destination altogether but Jonnys cousins live there so we went to visit them. We hit up the casino in town and then grabbed some food before heading to bed; so that was all we saw of the area. If we had a bit more time in the morning, I would have liked to eat a Nourish POD and visit the botanical garden.

Waitomo 

Having booked a tour that we were both very excited about, we left Hamilton at 9.45am and arrived just over an hour later. Waitomo is famous for its glow worm caves and whilst there is the option of rafting or caving through them, we booked a much more relaxed walking, guided tour that ended with a boat ride through the caves. Our guide was a local man who told us all sorts of magical stories about the caves past and how the glow worms came to be there. The boat ride was short but incredible - it felt like a real life Disney ride.

Rotorua

After the caves we headed straight to Rotorua. We spent a fun filled afternoon at Skyline; grabbing gondolas and chair lifts to the top of mountains and ziplining and luge-ing down them. It was super busy but very well run so the few hours we spent there was full of activity and there was hardly any waiting around.

Afterwards, we headed into town for japanese food and spent the rest of the night back at Aria's Farm - our accomodation for the night. With a clear sky and the moon so big from the recent eclipse, they suggested we do some star gazing from their hot tub, so that's exactly what we did! A truly magical day in New Zealand. 

Before we left Rotorua in the morning, we took a dip at the famous hot pools at the Polynesian spa.

Taupo

An hours drive later, we arrived in Taupo; another place full of natural phenomenons. We stayed here for two nights, although it was doable in less. Having tried a farmstay in Rotorua, here we experienced Boulevard Waters, a boutique motel right on the lake and The Lake Motel, a retro themed studio flat.

Over the two days, we hit up Huka Falls, the Craters of the moon and the Watakeri terraces as well as I'm sure you've guessed, lots of eating. With your own transport, it's very easy to park up at each one and take a leisurely walk around. It's also worth mentioning that all three of these attractions happened to be on the same road. 

Wellington

Wellington is the capital and one of my favourite parts of the country because it's full of life and also full of quirky cafes. Jonny is originally from Wellington so apart from spending lots of time with his family before we left, we spent most of our time wandering around town trying to pick where we wanted to eat.

There are lots of other things to do there though including driving up to the top of Mount Victoria for panoramic views, visiting the Te Papa museum to see the giant squid, walking along the bays and if you're a LOTR fan (which I am not) the Weta studios are supposed to be very good.
From Wellington, you can hop on a ferry and sail across the Cook Strait to Picton on the south island.

This little trip really made me appreciate the beauty of the country which I definitely didn't see enough of by staying in Auckland! Had we had more time before we left the country, I would have loved to see some of the south island as well.

A week in my life in Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, 13 August 2018

I say this all the time, but I cannot believe how long I've been away from home; it's been almost eight months since I left the UK on New Years Eve. Having spent a couple of months in Southeast Asia and five more in New Zealand, Jonny and I have just arrived at our new home in Australia. 
My time in New Zealand was completely unscheduled but I soon got into a routine. With the job hunt starting all over again here in Oz, it got me reminiscing about months past in Auckland.

So what did I get up to in an average week?

Wednesday

It's a super miserable morning but I'm not too worried because it's National Pineapple Day and I somehow got myself invited to a cocktail party with Dole, the pineapple suppliers here. I met up with my English friend, Emily and we spend the evening with the Dole team at Talulahs, a tiki bar by the harbour. 

Thursday

I woke up with a hangover so Thursday was a little bit slow as you can imagine. Jonny is working night shifts this week so after work, I turn the heated blanket on and get straight into bed. Made myself dinner, called my mum and spent the rest of the evening scrolling through Instagram.

Friday

It was my last day at the insurance office I work at and it was a little bit bittersweet. I was only meant to be temping for four weeks but I'm finishing my placement 3 months later with an annoying 10 day gap before we leave. I guess it's a good excuse to just chill out for a bit before the travelling starts again though.

Since Jonny is at work again, I got myself dinner from Jar Story near where I work; beef and quinoa salad, chocolate chia pudding and an almond milk and date shake. It was still sunny when I got some so I ate it out in the garden. 
Jonny ended up home by 10pm so we decided to make the most of our Friday night and headed back into the city to hit up the Casino. 

Saturday

We got up early and drive to our favourite cafe, Little Sister for breakfast and as usual I was very excited, just look at the first page of the menu and you'll understand. Last week I went for the oats and I spent the whole week thinking about what I was going to order when we got back. This time I ordered the chocolate hot cakes. Yum.
Since we seemed to be on a winning streak after last night, we went back to the casino this afternoon, stopping off at the gym, and then GIAPO on the way. It will always be my favourite place for extravagant ice cream so I am trying to squeeze in as many visits as I can before we leave. The shop was full as usual but we managed to grab seats inside so this time I could sit and watch the magic happen in the kitchen.

Everyone seemed to be loving the new New Zealand sheeps milk and banana flavour, I watched one hand crafted cone, dipped in chocolate and topped with peanut and banana go out after another; I admit, I was very tempted - they looked incredible but I'm not huge on peanut butter so I went for my usual Hokey Pokey - plus an extra scoop of caramel & hazelnut praline underneath. Coated with thick milk chocolate and honeycomb pieces I was in heaven.
After another suspiciously good run at the casino, we headed home, via the supermarket (for chocolate raisins and dried apricots) and then to HELLS pizza. We watched Game of Thrones in bed until the early hours of the morning.

Sunday

You would have thought we'd be sick of eating by now but oh no, not when there is brunch to be had! We found a paleo café just across the road from the gym. I ordered my avotoast minus the toast on a sweet potato rosti with a date and cacao smoothie and it was delicious!
Next; we head to the gym. again. I've never been to the gym so much in my entire life but with Jonny going every day, its super easy for me to just go with him and strangely enough, I am actually really enjoying it. Sometimes I really push myself but sometimes, I just go for a walk on the treadmill and just look at it as getting a little bit of movement into my day. Sunday morning is Yoga!
It was such nice weather when we left that we decided to go on a bit of an adventure, it was going to be our penultimate weekend in Auckland after all. But first; more food. Jonny picked up a Lamington since I'd not had one and then we went out in search of a waterfall. After getting a bit lost, we ended up at the beach which was just as good a place as any to settle down and fight over who got the biggest half of cake. lol
After a few more episodes of GoT, somehow it was 11pm. Since we had been in bed for a few hours so I thought I could safety assume that I was done eating for the day but apparently not; I can never assume when it comes to Jonny and McDonalds. After spending the journey deliberating about whether I really needed to eat any more, when I saw an advert for the new mint chocolate shake, there was no stopping me. With no whipped cream left, they suggested topping it with soft serve instead and it is the only way I'm ever going to order my milkshakes again. SO GOOD.

Monday 

My first day off started with 4am alarm because a week of late shifts is always followed by a week of early shifts. After Jonny turned all the lights on, made a big mess and left for work, I fell back to sleep until 10. Finally with some time to myself, I made a start of my inbox which I had been severely neglecting over the past few weeks and started thinking about what blog posts I wanted to get done with my time off before all the madness started again. Then I get a call from a recruiter offering me work for the next day. 

Tuesday 

It was another early start today but this time I actually had to get out of bed. I was just covering a receptionist who was off sick for a few days but it was in a part of town that I hadn't been to before so I had fun trying to navigate my way there. I don't know why but I have always wanted to do a receptionist job; well, now I can tick that off of my list!

It's been a simple life over the past few months; lots of eating (because it's one of my favourite things to do) and a little bit of exploring too. New Zealand has been cold and we both had full time job but it's still been a lot of fun!
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